We think languages firstly, and we speak languages secondly. Didn’t you know that? Many people don’t, but languages are produced inside our brains and then it’s when we speak. We do not feel this work as it is an automatic action that happens in our subconscious mind, so we don’t control it, but we can effectively use this capacity when learning.
Mirror neurones are quite funny thing. They are responsible for the imitation, and imitating is mandatory when learning a language. These neurones imitate, better or worse, any behaviour, sound or action they perceive. They are very useful for children learning and remember not to do anything you wouldn’t want your children to do in front of them. If you normally say sh*t at home, they would say it as well!
If we connect wires to a fiddler’s head while playing a piece of music, we can see which parts of the fiddler’s brain are working with a scanner. It is something that sounds science fiction to me but it seems science can easily do it.
I do not understand anything from a scanner with lights on it, but there’s a funny fact. If the fiddler is told to close his eyes and imagine he’s playing the same piece of music without the violin, the same parts of his brain would start illuminating the scanner screen even though there’s no real violin and no real music and not even real movement!
When I first got to know about this investigation, I was really impressed. I sometimes practice playing some songs with the bass guitar without it, the same way the fiddler was asked to do, and I didn’t know it implied so much. So I thought of Thinking Languages! and I clearly saw the connection.
I will constantly bomb all of you with ideas, handouts and interesting information about life, language learning acquisition and travelling to my school to learn Spanish! But the real reason why I started this project and why it is called Thinking Languages! it’s because of this.
You can do exactly the same the fiddler did if you imagine the language. For example, let’s suppose that you learn past tenses in whatever language you want to learn (I will write the examples in English but it’s up to you to change them to your target language) you just need to reproduce mentally lots of sentences about you or whatever you invent, but using the past tense.
You can imagine something like this:
Easy examples:I had a toast for breakfast My friend Steven drove me to the airport I went shopping this morning, I bought tomatoes, potatoes and a chair
Or making some more complex structures according to your level:I went to a very old school when I was a child Sarah and I decided to take a year out as we were really having a bad time. What happened the other day was something really strange as I would have never thought of anything like that could possibly ever happen
As you can see, we’re just inventing sentences which can be real or not, simple or not, but they’re making us experience the first part of the process in which we have recreate a mental process before even opening our mouths.
Most students struggle when it comes to speaking because their brains are not used to thinking in a second language. They also tend to translate all the time, which is the worst thing you could ever do when learning, as you interrupt the natural process of thinking –> speaking. Don’t you remember the Thinking Languages! chair?